Baseball

Yankee great Rizzuto dies

NEW YORK - His speed and spunk made him a Hall of Famer.

"Holy cow!" made Phil Rizzuto famous.

Popular as a player and beloved as a broadcaster, the New York Yankees shortstop during their dynasty years of the 1940s and 1950s died Monday night. "The Scooter" was 89.

Rizzuto had pneumonia and died in his sleep at a nursing home in West Orange, N.J., daughter Patricia Rizzuto said Tuesday. He had been in declining health for several years.

"I guess heaven must have needed a shortstop," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said in a statement. "He epitomized the Yankee spirit - gritty and hard charging - and he wore the pinstripes proudly."

Rizzuto was the oldest living Hall of Famer and his Cooperstown plaque noted how he "overcame diminutive size." At 5-foot-6, he played over his head, winning seven World Series titles and an AL MVP award and becoming a five-time All-Star.

"When I first came up to the Yankees, he was like a big - actually, small - brother to me," said Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, who frequently visited Rizzuto in his later years.

Rizzuto's No. 10 was retired by baseball's most storied team, and the club will wear his number on its left sleeves for the rest of the season.

The flags at Yankee Stadium were lowered to half-staff before Tuesday night's game against Baltimore and a bouquet was placed by Rizzuto's plaque at Monument Park. The team planned a moment of silence and a video tribute.

n COX SET RECORD FOR EJECTIONS: After going 7 1/2 weeks without getting tossed, Bobby Cox finally passed John McGraw for the most ejections in baseball history Tuesday night.

The Atlanta Braves manager was thrown out by plate umpire Ted Barrett for arguing a called third strike on Chipper Jones to end the fifth inning against the San Francisco Giants.

It was the 132nd ejection of Cox's career, eclipsing the mark that McGraw set during his Hall of Fame career.

"Just routine arguing balls and strikes, and he was ejected for that," Barrett said. "Nothing out of the ordinary from other ejections."

n TIGERS HIT BY FLU: Second baseman Placido Polanco and outfielder Craig Monroe were sick with the flu and scratched from the Detroit Tigers' series-opener against the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night.

Ryan Raburn started at second while Marcus Thames took Monroe's spot in the left field. Curtis Granderson, who wasn't in manager Jim Leyland's original lineup, played center field and batted leadoff. Carlos Guillen, originally in the lineup at shortstop, was moved to first base.

Polanco set a major league record Monday by playing in his 144th consecutive game without an error. The previous mark was held by Luis Castillo, who played 143 straight without an error from May 30, 2006, to June 5 for Minnesota.

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